Ontario Zoroastrian Community Fund (OZCF) celebratory event

by Niloufer Mavalvala

Sunshine, clear blue skies and a clean breeze kept almost 700 friends from the Ontario Zoroastrian Community Fund (OZCF) happy during their celebratory event. The Zarathustis, a small minority community who originate in ancient Persia and follow the Lord Zoroaster’s teachings, gathered for an event of a lifetime set up within the 10 acres of beautiful lawns of their centre. It was to pay homage to the priests who serve with their hearts and help keep this 5000-year-old religion alive.

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Photo courtesy of OZCF
Migrating to our community translates into assimilation with the new homeland, yet keeping traditions and heritage in place is of utmost importance. While we continue to belong, we like to believe it helps teach our neighbours more about ourselves sharing the knowledge of yet another part of this heterogeneous world. One way we do it is by having a jashan, a ceremony of thanksgiving to all life, animal and plant as well as the elements of water, fire, wind and earth.

This particular jashan, named Jashan in the Baug (thanksgiving in the park) invited all the members of the priesthood — dastrujis, mobedyars and navar martabs to congregate and pray in unison. The youngest member was Nekzad Illava at 12 years of age. It was rather unique to have 30 priests together perhaps even a milestone memory witnessed only once in a lifetime.

With yet more history in the making, we also had two ladies included in our congregation, unheard of over the past 13 centuries — although there is some evidence that there were women priests earlier on in history. As we honoured each priest with the customary token of appreciation — a box of sweets and a parika (an envelope of money) — we also added an award inscribed on a glass plaque to resemble our eternal flame.

The congregation was spread out over two large marquees that were filled with flowers, while the traditional chalk and toran (flower garlands) adorned the many entrances, this completed the décor as per our customary traditions. The stage was adorned with fresh and dry fruit, nuts, sweets and flowers, while three beautiful afarghans (fire urns), chamach, thaal and sandalwood were used to complete the ceremony.

Parsis, as they are referred to, love to party. Their slogan is iskhai pee nay mhaja, eat, drink and be merry. To ensure all of this we had organized some great food, a live band and very talented kids to entertain us with dance and song.

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Photo courtesy of Sheriar Hirjikaka
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Photo courtesy of Sheriar Hirjikaka
The jashan was followed by traditional lunch served on auspicious occasions — dhan dar (white rice with lentils) and prawn patia (shrimp chutney), murghi sali (chicken with potato straws) followed by an array of fruits, fresh and dry,

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Photo courtesy of Sheriar Hirjikaka
Food featured: Rewa (semolina pudding), sev (sweet vermicelli), mithu dahi (sweetened yogurt) and malida.

Another piece of history was made when the 107-year-old silver afarghan (fire urn) larger than life was on display for all to admire. The urn was a gift to the OZCF from the darbemeher (house of light) in Zanzibar that has now been shut down as the once thriving Zarathushti community in East Africa has dwindled. May all Zarathushtis in North America be blessed to light it for the next 107 years in good health and every happiness as we celebrate our freedom in our new home.

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